SOURCE: Science Daily

DATE: January 22, 2019

SNIP: For a while now, the scientific community has known that global warming is caused by human made emissions in the form of greenhouse gases and global cooling by air pollution in the form of aerosols.

However, new research published in Science by Hebrew University of Jerusalem Professor Daniel Rosenfeld shows that the degree to which aerosols cool the earth has been grossly underestimated, necessitating a recalculation of climate change models to more accurately predict the pace of global warming.

To what extent do aerosols cool down our environment? To date, all estimates were unreliable because it was impossible to separate the effects of rising winds which create the clouds, from the effects of aerosols which determine their composition. Until now.

With this new method, Rosenfeld and his colleagues were able to more accurately calculate aerosols’ cooling effects on the Earth’s energy budget. And, they discovered that aerosols’ cooling effect is nearly twice higher than previously thought.

However, if this is true then how come the earth is getting warmer, not cooler? For all of the global attention on climate warming, aerosol pollution rates from vehicles, agriculture and power plants is still very high. For Rosenfeld, this discrepancy might point to an ever deeper and more troubling reality. “If the aerosols indeed cause a greater cooling effect than previously estimated, then the warming effect of the greenhouse gases has also been larger than we thought, enabling greenhouse gas emissions to overcome the cooling effect of aerosols and points to a greater amount of global warming than we previously thought,” he shared.

The fact that our planet is getting warmer even though aerosols are cooling it down at higher rates than previously thought brings us to a Catch-22 situation: Global efforts to improve air quality by developing cleaner fuels and burning less coal could end up harming our planet by reducing the number of aerosols in the atmosphere, and by doing so, diminishing aerosols’ cooling ability to offset global warming.

Rosenfeld’s recalculations mean fellow scientists will have to rethink their global warming predictions — which currently predict a 1.5 to 4.5-degree Celsius temperature increase by the end of the 21st century — to provide us a more accurate diagnosis — and prognosis — of the Earth’s climate.